But now, I feel cannot postpone the review any longer. I guess I have not been following fragrance news very closely, because it was only during my recent trip to Paris that I found that Zen has been discontinued. “Discontinued?” I asked at Shiseido, crestfallen. “Yes, it is gone, a new one is coming in September!” the answer came. Sure enough, when I came back home I confirmed it is nowhere to be found. A cursory look through the international WebPages of Shiseido just confused me, with some listing it as part of the fragrance line while others do not. For now, all I can do to comfort myself is write a little tribute to this difficult love of mine, this love that refuses to be tamed, shunning my affections with haughtiness. That, and wait for the tidings September will bring, of course.
In 1964, Shiseido released the original Zen, Zen Classic. In 2000, almost four decades later, they decided to completely reformulate it. It was meant to be a fragrance for the new millennium. In a time when the stressors of society seemed to be at an ultimate height and with technology making unprecedented leaps into a future that at the time seemed rather frantic, Zen came with a very ambitious vision: to center the wearer, to make them look deep in their hearts. To find inner strength and beauty, enabling them thus to be at peace with the world around them. To vivify the heart, prompting it to reach to others with kindness and purity. With never before used notes such as Space Rose, special ingredients such as Kyara wood and Modified Valerian Oil (both meant to decrease stress and induce feelings of calm and focus) as well as a flacon modeled after two hands gently clasped together in white to encompass all colors, it is obvious that a lot of thought and care went into every stage of creating this perfume. What happened in seven years? Why take away something that clearly required so much effort to create? Excuse me while I lament the loss of a favorite...
And yes, despite its difficult character, Zen has been a favorite of mine. Lacking the richness and complexity of a masterpiece, yes, but still a favorite. Deconstructing it is not an option: Zen is an amalgam of sights, sounds and smells. The heavy rustle of a kimono, austere, reserved. Then the playful, happy song of the melting snow forming a quick stream over rounded stones come springtime. Bamboo whispering in the breeze, while sappy greens are being cut with a machete, the watery scent of their fresh juices mingling with that of its metallic edge. Spiciness with a complete lack of warmth - a spirit burning incense. Solitude. There are no tools of seduction here.
Unlike anything I’d ever smelled before, Zen smells to me today as unique as it did the first time I ever sprayed it on my skin. Out of this world. In one word, futuristic: as shocking and beautiful as a Hussein Chalayan dress. Mossy, spicy and woody at the same time, Zen has all the right ingredients to make me feel as though I am in a Japanese garden. Yet, I do not feel self-contemplating when I wear it. Instead, Zen makes me assume all the qualities it has itself: Aloofness, detachment and quiet forcefulness.
Image courtesy of www.bestcompanyamsterdam.com